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Budget Fox Body Ford Mustang - Keep On Carbin' Me, Baby
A Carb Done Right Beats EFI Done Wrong, Even On Boost.
Turbochargers and EFI go together like hot dogs and beer, so it seems only proper, then, that a turbo Mustang running 8.92 at 157 mph would prefer its fuel to be administered electron-ically, right? The way boost builds exponentially, and the precise fuel and spark delivery that it requires is a task best handled by a high-tech EFI system, particularly if driveability is a concern. At least that's what conventional wisdom suggests. For Tony Bourns, convention was just a waste of money.
While carburetors aren't often glorified in this modern era of performance, it's hard to fault an 88mm turbo huffing into a four-barrel to the tune of 999 rwhp. Such an unorthodox induction combination was simply a matter of saving cash, and a figure even more impressive than this Mustang's prodigious power or blazing e.t. is that Tony bought the car and built it for only $17,000. This is a man who knows how to sink money where it counts, and an EFI system would have added thousands of dollars for little in return.
Just as important as sticking to a tight budget was retaining enough civility to cruise the streets to engage in some extra-curricular activities. Certainly, civility is a term used loosely here, and you probably wouldn't want to drive too far out of town without an AAA membership, but the car still has a full interior and weighs 3,300 pounds. In fact, Tony decided to build the Mustang because he was getting sick of track-only cars. "I had a '78 Pinto Super Gas car that ran 9.50s at 138 mph," he says. "I wanted something I could drive on the street, though, so I sold it to build the Mustang. The funny thing is, now my street car is faster than my old race car."
After picking up a bare-bones, four-cylinder Fox on eBay for $1,600, Tony promptly doubled the cylinder count by putting together a potent 400ci engine combination. The Dart-based small-block features a Lunati forged crankshaft, Eagle H-beam rods, and Arias 8.75:1 dished pistons. A Comp 256-at-0.050-inch solid-lifter cam lifts the valves 0.660 inch off their seats, and a wide 114-degree lobe-separation angle plays nice with the boost. Before reaching the CNC-ported AFR 205cc heads, air is crammed down a Holley 750-cfm carburetor and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold.
Although Tony has always been a forced-induction kind of guy, a turbo wasn't originally part of the equation. He started out with a ProCharger D-1SC, later stepping up to an F1-R. In blown trim, the Mustang ran a best of 9.27 at 147 mph when cranked up to 21 psi and putting down 778 rwhp. Such outstanding performance notwithstanding, Tony began exploring different options once he stumbled upon Turbomustangs.com. There, he witnessed people raving about the superior low- and midrange kick of turbos over centrifugal blowers, and soon he had to have one.
With the help of some tricks he learned online, Tony took a set of BBK shorty headers and flipped them around to face forward in the chassis. His buddy, Brooks Lopez, fabricated some pipes and flanges, welded them up, and transformed a set of off-the-shelf parts into a budget turbo kit. Majestic Turbos (Dallas, Texas) provided the 88mm head unit along with a Spearco air-to-water intercooler. After the combo was finished, the Mustang laid down 883 hp on 14 pounds of boost. Turning up the wick to 20 psi upped that number to 999, but Tony hasn't had a chance to completely dial in the high-boost tune. Overall, torque increased 175 lb-ft across the board over the blower setup, and he figures there's another 75-80 hp still to be had. "A lot of people think that a blow-through setup can't be tuned, but it's really pretty simple," he explains. "I just make a pass, log my air/fuel ratio with the wideband O2 sensor, and jet the carb accordingly. I can fine-tune it with the electronic boost controller and adjust the timing with the MSD Digital 7 ignition box."
Since 10.5 racing is big in Texas and Tony likes to play at NMRA and Fun Ford events, all that power must be harnessed by itty-bitty 28x10.5-inch Mickey Thompson ET Drags. Helping shift the weight rearward are a set of four-cylinder springs, Lakewood shocks, Southside lower rear control arms, and Lake-wood upper rear arms. Homemade subframe connectors make sure power isn't wasted twisting the chassis, and a QA1 K-member and Modular Mustangs front A-arms take some weight off the front end. While there's probably some room for improvement in the Mustang's 1.36-second 60-foot times, the feat is quite impressive considering the simplicity of the suspension combination. To quickly shed speed at the far end of the track, Tony put Aerospace brakes up front and Wilwoods out back.
Rumor has it that extreme setups like this-if carbureted-should surge, spit, and drive like garbage. In reality, this Mustang is actually well mannered, firing right up without argument, and cruising along smoothly at part throttle. Ironically, many of the cars that are doing the surging and spitting and driving like garbage are the ones running EFI systems. Well, if they can't figure out how to tune technology that's superior on paper, at least they can feel good about having wasted more money.